Agriculture unveils framework for national animal ID system

The Agriculture Department has announced the framework for a National Animal Identification System to identify any agricultural premise exposed to a foreign animal disease so that the disease can be more quickly contained and eradicated.

'While many livestock species in the United States can be identified through a variety of systems, a verifiable system of national animal identification will enhance our efforts to respond to intentionally or unintentionally introduced animal disease outbreaks more quickly and effectively,' said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman yesterday.

In December, Agriculture said it would expedite the implementation of a national animal ID system for all species, after a cow in Washington State tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called mad cow disease. Click for GCN story.

Veneman said that $18.8 million from the Commodity Credit Corp. is earmarked for the initial infrastructure development and implementation of the national system. The administration's proposed fiscal 2005 budget includes another $33 million for the effort.

First, Agriculture will select an interim data repository to handle incoming national premises data. The department has commissioned an independent analysis of repositories that are currently part of various USDA-funded animal identification projects around the country. Once USDA selects the system that shows the greatest potential for use on a national level, the department will enter into cooperative agreements with states, Indian tribes and other government entities to assist them in adapting their existing systems to the new system.

'We hope to be issuing premise IDs later this year. And shortly thereafter we will be able to issue additional individual identifications, [and] we hope to be working with multiple species,' said Bill Hawks, Agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory affairs. The criteria for evaluation will be available in 30 days and in another 45 days Agriculture will be ready to award the cooperative agreements.


Agriculture will test drive current federally funded animal identification systems and determine which system or systems should be used for its national program, talk further with producers about the operation of the system, identify staffing needs and develop any regulatory and legislative proposals needed to implement it.

Agriculture will implement the selected animal identification system initially at regional levels for one or more selected species. After further evaluation, Agriculture will scale up the selected animal identification system to the national level.

Agriculture has funded a number of animal identification pilot projects over several years. Some have been with specific producer groups, such as dairy; some have been specific to a particular type of technology such as the radio frequency ID chip or microchip. Other possible animal identification technologies include retinal scanning and DNA testing. Initial animal identification will be for cattle and pigs, then expand to other species.

The department will remain technology neutral so producers can use current and effective systems and technologies, as well as adopt new technologies as they are developed.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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